New Englanders inhibit three specific traits: toughness, competitiveness and stupidity.
The toughness of New Englanders is illustrated on our ability to bear the harsh, winter elements that cause much of the country to question how we ever venture outside in mid-January. The competitiveness can be seen in our undying belief that from sports to seafood to short-track racing, New England sets the bar. And the stupidity? Well, you needn't look farther than the circumstances of Saturday's Color Vibe 5K Run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to realize that we're not the most logical of people.
To be fair, all three traits were abundantly clear at NHMS on Saturday morning. It seemed the harder the rain fell on a day whose high temperature was 47 degrees, the more the cars backed up on Route 106 in anticipation for the event. It was a staggering number of people that blew away all expectations.
The pre-event estimate for participation was about 8,000 people. By the time the last runner crossed the finish line, it was speculated that between competitors and spectators, about 20,000 people attended the event. I was just one of those undeterred by the wet, chilly weather.
After the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, running has turned into a symbol of the region's tough, competitive spirit. We want to run! We want to prove that no senseless acts by a few worthless terrorists can slow us down.
About the same time the masses were converging on the speedway for the Color Vibe, 3,000 runners and victims were completing the OneRun, which ran the final mile of the Boston Marathon. Undeterred by the attacks, next year's marathon is expected to draw a record number of participants. Likewise, Saturday's showing at NHMS confirms that the interest is growing across New England.
The event at the track was billed as a fun run, meaning that it is done so without timing and scoring. Having grown up in this area, my competitive trait was a little too much for that kind of set up, so I naturally stuffed an iPod with a Stopwatch app in my back pocket to track my time.
Hmm. Risking my iPod's well-being in the rain so as to confirm my time in a fun run!? Clearly the stupidity trait wasn't lost on me.
The good news for me was that it allowed me to estimate my running time at 24:40, which is right around an eight-minute mile. In the past few years, I've gotten in better shape and started running 5Ks. My goal for this event was 25 minutes, so I was happy to have beaten it.
Of course, I didn't miss the whole point of the race, which was to cross the finish line looking as much like the inside of a melted Skittles bag as possible. There are four stations set up throughout the course in which event staff throw colored powder on competitors. It gets caked on during the run, but I was impressed how quickly it washed off with a quick shower and a standard laundry cycle.
The Color Vibe provides a packet of color to get you going at the starting line, along with a white t-shirt that should be anything but when you finish and a pair of sunglasses to protect you eyes from the powder. I suppose the sunglasses would also have doubled in serving their manufacturer's purpose had the persistent rain ever considered letting up. (It did not.)
As I made it to each station, I made sure to run up to the staffers so that they cold douse me in color: green shortly after the start; yellow about one-third of the way through; pink after running down and back up the hill by the North Entrance; blue within a few 100 yards of the finish line.
By the time I hit the final station, the rain had made it difficult for the managers to get good handfuls of powder out of the color box. No worries, the ground was coated in blue dust. I gave a quick stop-drop-and-roll to make sure I didn't come back looking like I'd missed a station.
Tough? I bared the elements for the run.
Competitive? I self-timed my pace.
Stupid? Nothing I've said to this point would prove the contrary.
But, it was worth it. I had fun, ran fast and looked like someone that had gotten stuck in Candyland.
Sun, rain or snow, I'm sure that I'll be among the thousands to compete in the Color Vibe 5K Run again the next time.